Criticizing NoFap: It’s lacking an important perspective!
With NoFap, a movement has emerged during the last couple of years that is moving the side effects of porn consumption into focus: Pornography can support depression or lead to sexual dysfuctions such as erectile dysfunction or orgasm difficulties. Porn is able to hijack the dopamine system of our brain and thus make us addicted: porn addiction.
As an online community, NoFap is offering a space in which people support each other in withdrawal from porn addiction. Withdrawal means: no more masturbation. Through this, so the idea, the chemical balance of our brain can normalize. The brain “rewires”.
When I talk about pornography with men in my age, it is clear that the ideas of NoFap have made their way into our consciousness. The community is well known – and often times I meet a questioning insecurity: Is porn bad for me? Should I stop? Usually this is accompanied by some sort of intuitive gut feeling: Something must be wrong with porn…
Today I want to pick up this feeling and the insecurity. By inviting you to throw a glimpse onto the limitations of NoFap and to look one step beyond.
Porn as a drug
To put this up front: I am not against pornography. I even appreciate it. I see porn similar as I see alcohol: It can taste well and bestow us with joyful moments. But at the same time it is extraordinarily accessible, can become a habit and toxic to our bodies. And in severe cases, it can ruin our lives. When we do not find a healthy exposure to it.
So, to me there is no clear distinction between Good and Evil.
When we discern for ourselves that porn is not doing good for us, then withdrawal is a plausible step. And the NoFap forums are filled with stories of success. People for whom their porn-associated veiled everyday perception turns clear. Whose erectile difficulties simply disappear. A new self confidence, a new perception of the world.
There is a lot going on here. And this is good. Understanding and withdrawal are very important starting points for an addiction-driven nervous system. The support of the community, the neurological effect of the withdrawal and the power of the new self-determination – there is a lot of positive energy in this! For sure, many people where able to find themselves in NoFap.
Beyond NoFap: From Passive to Active Rewiring
But there are also people for whom NoFap does not work. People who do not grow superpowers, who continue to live with their veil and porn addiction. They relapse unwillingly, live with frustration and shame or are just insecure on whether porn is good or bad for them now. The German daily newspaper taz once published a critical article on the NoFap movement, there you can see the story of Hendrik.
For me, this story shows something very clearly. The NoFap movement lacks answers to the question: How can we develop a new, health sexuality? If our sexuality is mainly shaped by pornography, what comes after pornography?
And in NoFap I see mostly void for the future of our sexuality. Sure, there are improvements. People on NoFap report about increased libido, returned erections. But these are mere promises. Something that comes on its own, without further dedication. That does not work for everybody.
Above all, the promises are delusive. Arousal, erections, orgasms. For sure these are of high importance for us, functionally and emotionally. But these alone do not yet make good sex. There is more to fulfilling sex.
And also: When we do not have regular sexual partners, where and how can we even live our sexuality after withdrawal? As a first step, withdrawal banishes our own sexuality from our life. On NoFap there are suggestions to do sport or go for a walk. And sport is great – but sport is not sex.
Our sexuality is an important part of us. A space for lust and love, diversity and pleasure, intimacy and aesthetics. And with porn withdrawal we can fully lock out this part of us. What has had a central place in our life now disappears without substitution.
What can we do to develop a new and healthy sexuality?
To stay in the vocabulary of the NoFap movement: Rewiring. But I am not talking about passive rewiring which just happens through neurological regeneration of our brain in the course of withdrawal. I am talking about an active rewiring with which we proactively wire new structures of pleasure into our brain. And here it starts to get exciting.
I would like to write about three aspects in this: about our body, about connection and about emotions. In all these three areas we can learn. We can go on explorative journeys and increase our capacities.
Our body: Pleasure in the Here and Now
In this I see the most essential step for developing a new sexuality, away from a mainly porn-driven desire: Learning to sense our own body. Being in the Here and Now. To draw pleasure from within ourselves.
Because this is exactly what porn is likely to destroy: Our attention is fully targeted at the computer screen – we know our arousal only through input from the outside – our genital area feels like a black hole, error, there are none to little sensations.
And this must go wrong when we have sex with a partner. Because there we have to let ourselves fall into the Here and Now, there our bodies have to be part of this delicious mess called sex.
The good news is: We can learn this. It is like we would learn to play our body like an instrument.
We can find out how different types of touch feel, soft to hard, covering or punctual, on any part of our body. We can actively relax ourselves, can strengthen the nervous pathways between our brain and our genitals to become more and more sensitive. And we can put our body into expression. We can learn to use breath, noise and movement to raise our pleasure high into ecstasy.
And once we have made acquaintance with this vastness of exciting states, then it will be easier for us to drop into our pleasure. To let go of our thoughts and from fantasies and to arrive all in the moment. To unfold pleasure from within us, without input from the outside.
These are vast worlds! So diverse and luscious and juicy. For me, this is the direction that NoFap has to go in order to become a sexpositive movement – a movement that not only accepts sexuality, but explicitly supports and promotes it.
Going into connection
Another thing that our porn consumption makes us lose: going into contact with other people. Connection, intimacy, opening. All these are essential for a fulfilling sexuality. To show oneself vulnerably and to be accepted.
We do not learn this by watching porn. Because there we are usually alone and put ourselves in relation to mere objects on our screens. And when we are not lucky to learn connection in another place of our life and our sexuality, we will not learn it at all.
And then, when the porn withdrawal is successful – even if we are now able to reliably check the pleasure-erection-orgasm checklist – then we are still not able to perceive our partners as anything else but simple objects.
But we are actually able to learn connection. We can learn to look other people in the eyes. To communicate about ourselves, to open up and show ourselves. To find our own boundaries and to celebrate the boundaries of others. To live through conflicts and to overcome them together. To take responsibility.
And then there can rise a connection between us which makes every porn seem dull.
Holding our emotions
NoFap does not offer any psychological or emotional examination of peoples porn addiction. It is not about our stories, it does not get complicated, no, withdrawal starts now! and we simply count the days we manage not to relapse. This is justified and can indeed be seen as a strength of the movement.
But this can also be too short-sighted. Because, actually, there is plenty of emotion in porn. To many of us, watching porn is a way to regulate our emotions, be it stress or sadness. We reward ourselves with porn, just like we do with sweets.
And we can ask truly exciting questions here. Why do we watch porn, actually? What is gone from my life when I suddenly quit porn? Why exactly are we aroused by that specific scene? What does this have to do with our needs and conflicts in life?
That is why this is another crucial part in developing a healthy sexuality: finding into a strength with our own emotions. This means to get to know ourselves. Being able to be spend time alone. To look ourselves into the eyes. To open up for our own emotions – in our hearts, not only in our minds!
A journey to ourselves
Exploring our bodies, the connection to other people and our emotions – all this has a lot to do with awareness and mindfulness. To open our eyes for ourselves, for all our parts.
So there is nothing less to find than ourselves.
And, admittedly, this can be a very difficult path. Because in the beginning our desire will not crave anything else but porn. But when we take this path lovingly – a journey, not a calendar which we cross impatiently – then we can enjoy this as an adventure. Then this path itself brings a big share of pleasure and vitality.
This can start a transformation towards a sentimental and pleasurable sexuality in deep connection to ourselves and to our partners.
And we do not have to take this path alone.
There are many wonderful groups, spaces and workshops within the sexpositive community that dedicate themselves to the exploration of their sexuality. I wonder how this would be, when these worlds would come together: When the NoFap community not only writes about its success and breakdowns in withdrawal, but also exchange about their joruneys in discovering their new sexualities?
And there are somatic bodyworkers such as me, who support their clients in a focused process of learning and exploring. Are you intrigued? I am very happy to support you in your journey through my Sexological Bodywork Sessions or my written sexual counselling.
Because my experience is this: When we open up these new rooms, when we feel more and more at home there… Then a big chunk of the uncontrollable force that porn exerts on us disappears on its own.